Last week the news of the newly formed California Cup completion broke. The boys over at This Is American Rugby and ourselves reported on its inception and the factors that drove the new “winter” league which would allow the six teams to have access to all their players including some who have international caps as well as some of those who are playing PRO.
Four of the six teams in the competition are current Pacific Rugby Premiership clubs (Olympic Club, San Francisco Golden Gate, Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, and Belmont Shore). The other two teams are the tops sides from their unions Life West in the north and the San Diego Old Aztecs Rugby Club from the south.
We spoke to Jaco Breytenhach, President of the San Diego Old Aztecs on how did they get involved with the California Cup and the impact on their club? Below is the short brief.
The Rugby Republic (RR): How did the Old Aztecs get involved with the newly formed California Cup competition?
Jaco Breytenbach (JB): We were approached by the other clubs looking to form the competition and asked to be involved. With a local PRO team in San Diego (San Diego Breakers) it made sense to try and get more exposure to local players and create a pathway for them to get to the next level. We definitely appreciate, and feel honored that other highly regarded clubs like OMBAC, Belmont Shore, Golden Gate and Olympic club asked us and Life West Rugby to join the competition and support the growth of rugby.
RR: How can this new competition help the Aztecs (in addition to local exposure for your players for area PRO Rugby Club)? Is it a risk for your club as you could loose players to injuries before the league season?
JB: Playing in the California Cup will continue to build our brand and help with recruiting players. You only get better by playing against stronger opposition. This competition will test us, and really push us to up our level and intensity. It will also be good preparation for the D1 and D2 season, and give us a good idea of where we are as a team going into regular season.
Player management will be important and there's definitely a risk of injury before the league season. We are however talking to a few players that will only join us for Cal Cup prior to the PRO season, and that will hopefully give us a real chance to rotate our players and for guys to develop alongside top players. We have a really good numbers in the club, and this will also give us a chance to test our depth.
RR: How much change in the club competition do you attribute to PRO Rugby?
JB: I think that PRO Rugby, and the fact that rugby was in the Olympics, is definitely changing the profile of rugby locally. More people are seeing it and becoming aware of the sport, and PRO is bringing guys in from traditional rugby countries. This means more athletes, more numbers, and better rugby all around. It has pushed local clubs to take stock and decide how to fit into the changing landscape. This is another step in the right direction to help develop local talent and build infrastructure around the PRO teams. Which is really how it's done in the other rugby nations.
We want to thank Joco and the Old Aztecs for their time and sharing their insight. The new California Cup will benefit all those in it brings another level of rugby and exposure. The Old Aztecs are a team that continues to climb up the levels form a D2 team a few years back up to D1, to the top of D1 and now looking at the next step with the California Cup. Best of luck to the Old Aztecs with their upcoming cup quest! We’ll be working with them on a full look at this club in the coming weeks and its continued development.